Australian news, and some related international items

The immorality of Australia sending uranium to India

India-uranium1After Fukushima, is it moral for Australia to sell uranium to India?  by  Monday 29 September 2014

With Australian uranium in the reactors at Fukushima during the meltdown, is it moral to sell the asbestos of the 21st Century to India? “………Although the Fukushima disaster seems confined to Japan, the story of this particular nuclear disaster started in a big yellow truck in an Australian uranium mine.

One hundred percent of Australian uranium is exported, and our export industry is one of the largest in the world, supplying between 12-20 percent of the global market. We have around 30 percent of the world’s reserves of uranium. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan boughtaround 2,400 tonnes of uranium from Australia, our second largest market next to the European Union.

A 2003 Senate inquiry into the Ranger uranium mine found that “a pattern of  under-performance and non-compliance”, with a “large number of incidents attributable to unsatisfactory management practices and, many have argued, the inadequate monitoring and oversight by regulating authorities.” This 2003 inquiry was the last significant examination of the Australian uranium industry.

More recently in February 2014, Australia faced a uranium contamination scare in New South Wales, after a Santos coal-seam gas well in the Pillaga Forest spilled water contaminated with uranium and arsenic into an aquifer. The details of the spill were not made public until after The Wilderness Society uncovered the spill through freedom of information applications to the Environmental Protection Authority. Santos was fined $1,500 for this spill and has paid $55,000 in fines for at least “20 toxic coal seam gas waste-water spills”, according to The Wilderness Society’s national director Lyndon Schneiders

Australia has a moral obligation and a humanitarian responsibility for the hazards posed by the uranium we sell. Even once it leaves our shores, there are many risks that Australians should care about: proliferation, nuclear waste and nuclear disasters could all have catastrophic impacts on Australia and our neighbours.

After Fukushima, we cannot return to business-as-usual when it comes to uranium exports. Yet the Australian government not only plans to expand our uranium exports, but has substantially lowered the standards that we once required through the recent deal that was signed with India……….

India is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, but pressure from the US was brought to bear on Australia to sell our uranium to India. It hasat least two large reactors that are “apparently run as military plutonium producers”. There is no doubt that Australian uranium would free up local Indian reserves to be used for weapons. In 2005, former head of India’s global strategic development task force K. Subramaniam wrote in the Times of India:

Given India’s uranium ore crunch and the need to build up our minimum credible deterrent as fast as possible, it is to India’s advantage to categorise as many power reactors as possible as civilian ones to be refuelled by imported uranium and conserve our native uranium fuel for weapon-grade plutonium production.

This sale deal is irresponsible and violates Australia’s long-standing position of adhering to international treaties. We should be wary of selling uranium to a nation that will not sign the non-proliferation treaty andrefuses to decommission its nuclear weapons. It may not be our uranium in those bombs, but by exporting our uranium to India we are facilitating their military nuclear program and are more generally increasing the risk of proliferation and disaster.

David Sweeney is the long-standing nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation. He visited Fukushima after the meltdown in 2012. His account is heartbreaking and poignant……….

pro-nuclear energy advocates continue to promote the so-called merits of constructing nuclear power stations in Australia, despite the fact that it is “not a remarkably cheap option, nor a simple one; 10 or 15 years could be needed before a decision to go nuclear leads to an operating plant”, according to Australian Industry Group chief executiveInnes Willox.

Nuclear energy is a risky and high cost source of electricity that produces intractable challenges of militarisation, waste and proliferation.

With the horror of Fukushima still clearly visible, the morality of exporting Australian uranium to India is on shaky ground indeed.

October 1, 2014 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics

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